On June 1st, 2017, Kenya celebrated her 54th Madaraka Day. This is the day when Kenya attained internal self-rule from the British. As a country, we have made great strides, recently launching the standard gauge railway, the biggest infrastructural project Kenya has undertaken since Independence.
Apart from a few African countries that are rising, the situation is gloomy and heartbreaking. How can we as a people confront the demons of disease, ignorance and hunger without dwelling on a painful past?
The common half-truth narrative that has been packaged and sold to Africans is that everything that afflicts this continent right now is because of the white man. It’s partly true, that the current status of Africa was engineered by the West so that they can continue to exploit our resources. But it’s a statement that is also stuffed with tonnes of misrepresentations.
Some African leaders who took over power after the colonialists left ransacked their countries. They looted the public coffers and built empires that now rival GDPs of countries.
African ‘big men’ have defaulted on the promises that they gave their citizens 50 years ago. Every election year, bad checks are issued to the citizenry and when the rubber meets the road, they are barely honoured.
We cannot always blame the colonialists. For the last 5 decades or so, Africa has held its own destiny in its hands. Well, let’s give it like 2 decades of teething problems and building capacity. For the last 30 years, Africa has been the captain of her ship.
The four Asian Tigers of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan were just like many African countries; colonised and messed up. Yet these regions are now industrialised countries providing hope to their citizenries.
The difference between Asian tigers and Africa is that while they focused on nation building, our leaders focused on personal pocket building. The inequalities you see today in Africa are as a result of the insatiable greed that many founding fathers had.
African presidents lead countries that are some of the poorest in the world yet they are some of the highest paid leaders in the world. Their luxurious lives are the envy of many. Africa is a continent that is ravaged by basic issues like sanitation, malaria, education, health etc. yet the same continent is where corruption and sleaze are the order of the day. Nobody gets prosecuted and we haven’t seen a radical effort to tame corruption and cronyism.
Instead of changing their countries selflessly and living a life of sacrifice, many of these leaders have amassed enough wealth that they can run their dynasties from Mars and their accounts will not be dented one bit.
Fifty years ago, when black Africans took over the reigns of power hope was flowing across the continent like the mighty Nile defying every obstacle that was erected on its way. Independence decrees came as a great light of hope to millions of Africans who had been baked in the combustion of untold injustice. Independence came as a bright new day that marked the end of the long night of gnawing of teeth because of bitterness, suppression and disrespect.
But fifty years later, a majority of Africans are still not free from the threats that faced their hunter and gatherer ancestors.
Fifty years later, the life of an African child is still as unpredictable as the life of a worm. Apart from the tentacles of neo-colonialism, elite black Africans have tied the continent to the log of stagnation with chains of cronyism and discrimination.
Over five decades later, the average life expectancy in Africa stands at 52.5 years, compared to 69.2 in the rest of the world.
Over Fifty years of self-rule and independence, 91 percent of the world’s HIV-positive children live in Africa. More than one million adults and children die every year from HIV/AIDS in Africa alone.
Fifty years and still counting, 90% of all malaria cases occur in Africa and 3,000 children die each day in Africa from malaria.
Over 5 decades later, Africa has failed to diversify her exports because one or two products accounts for at least 75% of total exports in a majority of Sub-Saharan Africa.
That Africa is a sleeping giant is no longer in doubt. That Africa has been and continues to be plundered by neo-colonialists and some African leaders who have vowed to milk the continent dry for their personal interests are as bright as the noonday sun.
Africa’s history was distorted, erased and completely decimated by the West in their Conquests of Africa.
Recently, black Africans have been trying to unearth their history that was damaged by the Europeans. The idea is to awaken the African pride so that we can finally rise up and accomplish the latent potential that lies within us.
While I am supportive of the idea that we need to unearth our history and remind the masses of who we are, we should also do more. There must be complementary efforts so that we don’t just dwell in the past, but we also chart a way forward for future generations.
I refuse to accept the view that Africa’s future is so tragically bound to the starless midnight past of pain, destitution and war. I refuse to believe that my continent will always be called ‘dark’. I refuse to believe that Africa, though capable of feeding her own people depends on food donations and that people still die of hunger.
I will not accept the attitude of mediocrity that Europe and America have had their civilisations longer than ours. Why then don’t we learn from their mistakes and sprint ahead of them?
The change we desperately need will not roll in and take residence on our laps. We must continuously struggle to free ourselves. If not from the white colonialists and neo-colonialists, it must be from our fellow elite black colonisers who have insatiable appetites for national resources.
Let the young people across Africa rise up and take positions of leadership. We must learn from the past and change the fortunes of Africa. Even if it means that we break down every ideological fallacy that has been fed to us.
The writer is a journalist and a political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @dannishodongo